What is your response when God blesses others?
Sometimes, we find it difficult to rejoice when others rejoice because we may think that for some reason it’s not right. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, the mother church, those of the circumcision were not pleased with what Peter had to say. “Those of the circumcision” were the Jews who believed that Gentiles had to become Jews to be saved, by being circumcised and keeping the Law. They had the same difficulty in accepting what God has said that Peter had, and they castigated him for eating with Gentiles.
We, too, sometimes find it difficult to rejoice when others rejoice, and we, too, have our reasons. We might believe that the person who has received God’s blessing has not gone about things in the right way. Maybe we believe they are not worthy of their blessing, by which we mean they are not as worthy as we are. The truth is that none of us is worthy to receive God’s most excellent gifts, so we’d better not start playing the Game of Comparison.
It’s the same game that children often play. When one child in the family has received an invitation to a birthday party or a friend’s house, when one child has found some money, or one child has accidentally been given a special privilege when others haven’t, the other children naturally want theirs. There’s often no rejoicing in the blessing of another, if it doesn’t benefit us.
In the case of the Jews, how could the Gentiles who weren’t even circumcised or didn’t keep the Law be saved? Sometimes, this was a legitimate and honest theological question. Other times, the Jews resisted the gospel out of envy or jealousy, the same reason why they crucified Jesus.
So what is our attitude toward the blessing of God in the life of others when that same blessing has passed us by or when we have worked a lot harder for the same blessing?
Do you remember Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard? Some workers found work and agreed to be paid a denarius for a day’s wages. Others, however, were hired late in the day, and yet they got paid the same amount as the workers who worked all day. It just seemed so unfair.
But do you remember the answer of the employer? He said to those who complained, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”
It must have seemed so unfair that the Jews had had a monopoly on God for 1500 years. They had Abraham and circumcision and the covenant. They had the oracles of God and the Law. They had the Promised Land – well, sort of. And now the Gentiles were going to receive God and salvation without having to go through the same things?To the credit of those of the circumcision in Acts 11, when they heard all that Peter had to say and what he had experienced, they became silent. They actually listened, and when they had considered what God had done, they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
It must have seen as if God were being unfair, giving His same good gifts to those who seemed unworthy and who had not seemed to work as hard for them. But God, out of His goodness, did just that.
And God, out of His goodness, blesses many of the people you know. He even blesses some of those who don’t even turn to Him in faith. He gives His rain and sun and life to those who will only squander these gifts on themselves. He gives eternal life to those who hold back much of themselves, perhaps more than you. He gives His Son to some who will build on His foundation with wood, hay, and straw, while you may build with gold, silver, or precious stones.
But rather than weeping and wailing over what God has given to others and how He has done it, rejoice in what He has given to you and how He has done that. So what if someone somewhere has been given more by God with apparently less justification? Can any of us really believe that we deserve God’s goodness? Can any of us who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb ever really think that somehow God has somehow ripped us off?
If we just stopped and considered how God has dealt with each one of us, we would first shut our mouths from all grumbling and complaining. Then, having been silenced, we would give glory to God that even someone like me could be loved by God and given His life. And then we would open our mouths again to give thanks for receiving from God far, far more than we deserve. And finally, we would open our mouths and rejoice each and every time God blessed someone we knew with His presence and favor.
Prayer: Father, I thank You for Your perfect and generous gifts to someone who is surely undeserving of them. Drive away from me all grumbling and complaining by reminding me to give thanks. Banish from me all unhappiness when You bless others, that I might rejoice when they rejoice and give thanks for Your life-giving works. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. What is your attitude when others seem to prosper instead of you?
2. Take time to think of the ways in which God has been more than generous to you – and give thanks!
Resolution: I resolve to look for God’s blessing in the life of someone else, to rejoice when I see it, and to glorify God.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson